Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Seven Dancers Coalition Speaker and Author Speak in Plattsburgh for a Month-Long Event

 

Intern Arwa Abuwala, Jonel Beauvais, Julia Devine, and Eahwahewì after the event. 

All through the month of April, SUNY Plattsburgh in collaboration with a few organizations from Akwesasne are hosting an event revolving around Native American individuals in the Plattsburgh area. The main event revolving around a novel by Louise Erdrich called The Round House, which will be given out for free at the Akwesasne Cultural Center and Library, SUNY Plattsburgh library and Plattsburgh Campus Bookstore. One of many events included Seven Dancers Coalition outreach worker Jonel Beauvais, and author of "Recover. Rebuild. Reclaim Self", Eahwahewì were invited to hold a discussion in the Champlain Valley Commons Hall.

Working with SUNY Plattsburgh, Jonel Beauvais with Eahwahewì came as a duo to speak to students and staff about their experiences as Native women and their individual struggles and opinions that came to them. Beauvais was the first to stand and speak, explaining Mohawk culture and how embracing it helped her become the person she is today, especially with past experiences with alcohol and drug abuse, and physical and sexual abuse. She then asked the group what they believed a community was made up of, which many people answered with "Love, trust, sisterhood, compassion," and many other examples. With this she explained that all the examples they had given were what makes up a Mohawk community, but during a demonstration where she asked four people to sit around the "fire," and four women standing behind them and so on. 

With this demonstration, where she asked those who sat around the fire to leave as they represented children taken from their families and the group were asked how that made them feel. The room was hushed when she revealed what this was meant to demonstrate: the legacy of Residential Schools and how they have impacted families for the last few generations, even now this legacy hurts us. This is common topic among many Aboriginal communities but for an outsider who may not be familiar with it, the room became silent. In this first hand experience with having something they built together to be torn apart. Many of participants expressed feelings of "helplessness, emasculated, broken, and empty." to see that first time expressions of overwhelming sadness that was being demonstrated only enhanced what was a real life experiences of many families had felt, something intangible and can only be demonstrated in that moment. 

After this demonstration, Beauvais gave the floor to Eahwahewì where she spoke about her experiences with traditional medicine and how it helped her recover from her own trauma. They ended the night by thanking everyone for participating and hoping to come back to Plattsburgh soon.

 

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